Guest post by Dr. Aoife O’ Dwyer, former Senior MSL, author of Medical Science Liaison, the Ultimate Step by Step Guide and founder of MSL Consultant. In this article, Aoife explains what the MSL role entails, how much it pays and provides her tips on how aspiring MSLs can get their first MSL job!

What is an MSL? 

A Medical Science Liaison (MSL) is a position within the medical affairs team in a pharmaceutical company. An MSL bridges the gap between the internal pharmaceutical company and the external therapeutic area and health care professionals who work in the therapeutic area. 

An MSL can be defined as a field based non-promotional medical affairs team member who builds collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with Key opinion Leaders (KOLs) in a defined therapeutic area with the overall goal to ensure the company’s products and strategy is meeting the needs of health care providers. 

A key opinion leader is someone who is highly influential and very well respected in a given therapeutic area. For example, an oncology KOL may be a medical oncologist who publishes a lot in the oncology space and writes guidelines on how to treat cancer. 

An MSL for an oncology drug will build relationships with medical oncologists, gain insights about how the drug is used, how the clinical data is perceived, what data gaps there are for the drug and share these insights with the company. This will inform the company’s medical strategy, ensuring it is aligned to the needs of oncologists.  

What skills/experience are required to be an MSL? 

The majority of MSL positions require a PhD/MD. However, smaller companies are now hiring candidates without a PhD but with a background in Science/Pharmacy/Nursing. 

In terms of skills/experience, an MSL must be a confident presenter, be able to interpret and analyse clinical data and have the soft skills required to develop rapport with KOLs and have a strong commercial acumen. 

What does a typical day in the life of an MSL look like? 

The great thing about being an MSL, is there is no such thing as a typical day. However, activities an MSL may be involved in day to day include (but are not limited to) ;

 Preparing for KOL meetings
 Organising advisory boards
 Meeting with medical and marketing colleagues and sharing insights from KOLs to inform the strategy
 Meeting KOLs and discussing clinical data
 Training sales reps
 Emailing KOLs to organise meetings
 Researching and preparing answers for medical information responses doctors have asked

How much does an MSL earn? 

Total compensation for an MSL in the US ranges from $132 K – 229K per year. 1

What are your three top tips for increasing your chance of success when applying for MSL jobs? 

1. Highlight your transferrable skills on your CV – the ability to western blot is not applicable to the MSL job. Focus instead on your oral presentations, publications and your scientific expertise. 
2. Understand the MSL role as much as possible – check out the free resources on find MSLs in your network to connect with and pick their brains.
3. Apply for contract MSL positions – you’ll experience a lot less competition from experienced MSLs and have a much higher chance of success.